Em­bat­tled South Africans are bank­ing on Mboweni

Sunday Tribune - - OPINION - Mboweni sha, sha”. “Tim

THE cab­i­net’s min­is­ter of fi­nance po­si­tion has prob­a­bly been the most reshuf­fled post in the his­tory of our democ­racy. Like the rand, it ap­pears sus­cep­ti­ble to swings in the sen­ti­ment of out­side forces.

On Tues­day, for­mer gov­er­nor of the South African Re­serve Bank Tito Mboweni was sworn in as the coun­try’s new fi­nance min­is­ter, the fifth in less than three years.

The mar­kets ral­lied and the em­bat­tled rand strength­ened in af­fir­ma­tion as he re­placed Nh­lanhla Nene, who apol­o­gised and re­signed – in a first for a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter.

The mar­kets’ re­ac­tion was in con­trast to when Mboweni took up the reigns at the Re­serve Bank, suc­ceed­ing Chris Stals in 1999 and the rand crashed. But in the decade he led the cen­tral bank, he proved his met­tle. South Africa’s for­eign ex­change re­serves quadru­pled. He went on to serve on multi­na­tional boards, in­clud­ing as ad­viser to Gold­man Sachs In­ter­na­tional.

Mboweni, a trained econ­o­mist, has vast ex­pe­ri­ence in fi­nance, eco­nomic pol­icy and gov­er­nance. He may well be the man for the tough job ahead to jump-start an econ­omy mired in re­ces­sion and work with Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa to re­build con­fi­dence in a coun­try bat­tered by al­most a decade of mis­man­age­ment un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

Not only is it im­per­a­tive to build con­fi­dence for po­ten­tial over­seas in­vestors and busi­ness peo­ple, but to re­store hope in many jaded tax-pay­ing cit­i­zens. Trans­form­ing the econ­omy is crit­i­cal to in­crease in­vest­ment and ac­cel­er­ate growth which will cre­ate an im­pe­tus for em­ploy­ment.

Mboweni will have to steel him­self as he im­ple­ments stim­u­lus for growth, cuts the fat where nec­es­sary, and guards against cor­rup­tion. His po­lit­i­cally as­tute ne­go­ti­at­ing skills from his time as min­is­ter of labour in Nel­son Man­dela’s ad­min­is­tra­tion will no doubt be needed as he goes toe-to­toe with the unions.

But his first big task will be to present the Medium-term Bud­get on Oc­to­ber 24 in the face of mount­ing pres­sure from the mar­kets and cred­i­trat­ing agen­cies who seek re­as­sur­ance of the coun­try’s fis­cal health.

Fed-up South Africans are bank­ing on Mboweni, and as rap­per Cassper Ny­ovest lyri­cally put it,

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